Mapping, Social Networking and the Classroom

January 10, 2010 by

In 2006, the National Geographic Education Foundation and Roper Public Affairs published a report on geographic literacy. This report revealed a somewhat disturbing level of geographic literacy among Americans – both children and adults – citing a dramatic lack of understanding of geography, both local and world-wide. Internationally, despite the ongoing wars in the Middle East at the time, the study found that “six in ten (63%) cannot find Iraq on a map of the Middle East.” As a Teaching Assistant as OSU, I’ve seen proof of this study first-hand. In this session, then, I’d like to start a discussion that deals with creative ways for educators to confront – and attempt to solve – this educational deficit. I’d like to look outside the traditional maps used in classrooms, and examine ways to improve geographic awareness that exist outside of the textbook or overhead projector – for this session, the focus would be on popular social networking and media sites.

The majority of the students in our classrooms cannot code, build websites, or hack a computer. For some of them, the basics of Microsoft Office seem unknowable. But many of them know Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or LiveJournal, and understand the basics of Google’s box of tricks. Students who use these social networking tools rarely relate them to their schoolwork, beyond the basics of setting up study groups or complaining about coursework. Instructors interested in drawing these students into geography can, however, use these same social networking sites – often seen as frivolous and useless in the halls of Academia – as tools for the classroom. Many of them, however, use mapping widgets, used to connect users across geographic borders, while others offer real-time map-based posting tools.

For this session, I will present some examples of how mapping is used in popular social networking tools, and would love to hear some of your ideas on the theme!

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2 Responses to Mapping, Social Networking and the Classroom

  1. Amanda Sikarskie on January 11, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Ooh, really glad to hear about a session on mapping. The project I work for, the Quilt Index, has images and metadata online for 50,000 quilts made across the US and around the world. Mapping, and especially the educational impact of mapping, is one of the future directions we plan to explore, so I’m very interested to hear more.

  2. Marjorie McLellan on January 11, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    This year, I’m teaching Urban Society and Change for the first time. This is a course about cities and urban change around the world. I’ve been experimenting with using Google Maps both for sharing digital resources and as a platform for student projects. I look forward to hearing more about your work.

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